House GOP leaders say they are confident they can muster enough support to pass a second stopgap spending bill before a government shutdown next week, despite pressure from their right flank.
Conservatives have chaffed at the idea of moving any short-term continuing resolutions that do not include policy riders defunding the Democratic-written health care law and Planned Parenthood.
But despite those complaints, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that he would have enough votes to pass a bill extending funding for several weeks — so long as it includes cuts.
“You’ll see Republicans go after the same percentage and maybe a higher percentage” as they did in the first two-week CR, which included $4 billion in cuts, the California Republican said.
McCarthy’s acknowledgment comes despite the fact that for days, House Republicans have sought to enforce unusually tight message discipline, pressing Members and staff alike to “not negotiate with themselves” and reserve comment until Democrats produce an alternative spending bill, GOP aides said.
According to aides, offices have been instructed to deflect questions about talks with Democrats on any aspect of spending until Senate Democrats and the White House put forth a formal alternative that makes cuts to baseline levels.
Although more circumspect in discussing a second short-term CR, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also acknowledged it may be necessary, noting that “everything has been discussed. ... There’s a lot more work to do.”
But despite the guarded rhetoric, Republican leadership isn’t taking any chances with the next short-term bill. Leaders, including McCarthy, began reaching out to conservative Democrats to see whether they would support another short-term measure while negotiations continue, according to sources familiar with the conversations.
“You pick off people from time to time. When an Upton bill gets to the floor, they’ll target Energy Democrats,” one Republican lobbyist said, referencing Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). “It’s Blue Dogs because it’s more about fiscal issues.”
Blue Dog Co-Chairman Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) is a key target, according to the lobbyist.
“Another strong bipartisan vote on a short-term CR will help moving forward with negotiations on the overall bill,” one senior Republican aide said, referring to the longer-term CR.
Likewise, Cantor said the fact that 104 Democrats backed the first CR is a “sign that we’ll be able to deliver whichever way we go.”
A senior GOP aide, however, denied that Republicans have reached out to Democrats, maintaining that they will not do so until Democrats come forward with their own position so that negotiations can begin.
“Democrats don’t have a unified plan yet, so it’s hard for us to negotiate or talk about cooperation with these conservative Democrats when their leadership doesn’t have a unified stance. ... It’s hard for us to convince conservative Democrats to abandon their leadership’s position when they don’t even have one,” the aide said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.